Toy­ota un­veils four cars in one

Shepparton News - Shepparton Car Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

Toy­ota has bro­ken away from tra­di­tional ve­hi­cle de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing to pro­duce a vi­sion­ary con­cept that com­bines four cars in one.

The in­no­va­tive Toy­ota ME.WE can be con­fig­ured as a small city car, off-roader, ute and con­vert­ible, mak­ing it adapt­able to a wide va­ri­ety of life­styles.

The five-seat elec­tric con­cept car is po­si­tioned as an in­tel­li­gent, no-frills re­sponse to the eco­log­i­cal threats posed by mass pro­duc­tion and the growth of the global car fleet.

A joint ven­ture be­tween Toy­ota and lead­ing Euro­pean in­dus­trial de­signer Jean-Marie Mas­saud, the car’s name re­flects a si­mul­ta­ne­ous con­cern for in­di­vid­ual freedom (ME) and re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards so­ci­ety (WE).

The goal was ‘‘in­tel­li­gent re­duc­tion’’ — bet­ter ac­com­mo­dat­ing the au­to­mo­tive needs of peo­ple by elim­i­nat­ing ex­cess in a pack­age that rec­on­ciles driv­ing plea­sure with en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The ME.WE uses light­weight, ro­bust and re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als — a tubu­lar alu­minium struc­ture, body panels made from ex­panded polypropy­lene, and bam­boo for the floor and dash­board.

In­side, pas­sen­gers al­ways take pri­or­ity over lug­gage, which can be car­ried on the roof, pro­tected by a neo­prene cover.

The rear lug­gage space can be ex­tended, trans­form­ing it into a plat­form like that of a ute; the car can also pro­vide the ‘‘wind-in-the­hair’’ ex­pe­ri­ence of a cabri­o­let by open­ing all the win­dows, in­clud­ing the wind­screen.

In­stru­ments are limited to a sin­gle screen above the steer­ing wheel that in­di­cates ve­hi­cle speed, bat­tery charge, trip in­for­ma­tion and nav­i­ga­tion in­struc­tions de­liv­ered by a smart phone.

The smart phone it­self is mounted be­low the screen and al­lows oc­cu­pants to cre­ate their own per­sonal en­vi­ron­ment with mu­sic and other apps, as well as con­trol­ling the cabin air tem­per­a­ture.

Minimalist bench seats, also con­structed from ex­panded polypropy­lene, can be re­moved and used for a pic­nic.

Sim­ple de­sign is matched by ease of use: it has an elec­tric mo­tor in each wheel like the re­cently un­veiled Toy­ota i-ROAD and its bat­ter­ies are lo­cated un­der the floor, as with the Toy­ota iQ elec­tric car. The ME.WE pro­vides two or four-wheel drive, giv­ing it the abil­ity to cope ef­fec­tively with dif­fer­ent ter­rains, some of which may be in­ac­ces­si­ble to a tra­di­tional car.

But it is much lighter than con­ven­tional 4x4 ve­hi­cles: Toy­ota says the Yaris-sized car could weigh as lit­tle as 750 kg — a min­i­mum weight sav­ing of 20 per cent com­pared with a con­ven­tional car in its class.

The body panels weigh just 14 kg — a sav­ing of around 180 kg com­pared with the use of steel.

Ex­panded polypropy­lene is strong and has bet­ter ther­mal in­su­la­tion properties, re­sult­ing in less use of the car’s elec­tric heater and air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tem.

Toy­ota’s Euro­pean de­sign and de­vel­op­ment HQ, ED2, and Mas­saud, a noted ar­chi­tect and in­ven­tor, have pooled their ex­per­tise and used ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies to pro­duce a re­al­is­tic con­cept car.

Toy­ota says there are cur­rently no plans for the ME.WE con­cept to en­ter pro­duc­tion.

For a full run­down on any Toy­ota ve­hi­cle, call into Shep­par­ton Toy­ota, Melbourne Road. Or call the show­room on 5823 1301.

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